by Robert Manyara
LODWAR (Xinhua) -- Four years into the
discovery of oil in Kenya’s northwestern Turkana county, the
local residents’ initial hopes of better economic prospects has
been replaced by rising impatience.
In the past three
years, there have been numerous protests in the vast and
semi-arid region as locals demand jobs and monetary
Local people often complained of being sidelined by oil
exploration firms, alleging that only well-heeled businessmen
and politicians have benefited from the business.
Initial protests in the regions near oil fields stemmed from
fear by the herdsman community that exploration will displace
them from their ancestral land.
"We feel our livelihood has been threatened by the oil
exploration activities in the region and our livestock and
people will be displaced," said Arot Chegem, a resident in
Chegem insisted the government and oil companies should
compensate Turkana herdsmen displaced from their ancestral land
when oil exploration started.
However, despite simmering discontent from a section of the
population, there are other indications that the oil drilling
has boosted local economy.
A spot check by Xinhua reveals that modern schools and health
centers have been constructed in the areas where oil exploration
has been ongoing.
"Our children used to cover a long distance to school and
there were no health facilities nearby. But since the oil
companies pitched tent here, our lives have improved
tremendously," said John Ekai, an elderly herdsman.
International oil companies have been prospecting for oil in
Lokichar and Ngamia-1 regions of Turkana county since 2012.
Since oil exploration commenced in Turkana, conservation
lobbies have been pushing for compensation to local people who
lost their ancestral land that is rich in flora and fauna.
At the same time, community leaders have lobbied oil
companies to invest in physical and social infrastructure
including roads, schools, hospitals and power.
Last month witnessed violent protests by Turkana residents
demanding compensation by oil companies. Local administrators
brokered a truce between the oil companies and the aggrieved
On their part, the oil companies promised to invest more
resources in projects that uplift the living standards of
"We have partnered with key stakeholders to ensure that local
people are involved in our projects.
"We have employed several top and middle level managers from
Turkana county," said Martin Mbogo, the Kenya Country Manager
for Tullow Oil.
The county government of Turkana has organized several
meetings between oil companies and community leaders to address
the row over compensation.
County lawmakers said at a recent meeting that the passage of
Kenya’s petroleum bill 2015 will ensure that local people
benefit from 10 percent of profits generated from oil exports.